Bespoke shoes are not only the crème de la crème breed of custom shoes but they’re also the most steeped in tradition and heritage. A rarefied service that is a testament to hand craftsmanship, bespoke shoemaking is as sophisticated as it is extravagant.
Therefore, if you’re looking to invest in bespoke shoes, you can use this guide to discover the top 10+ Best Men’s Bespoke Shoe Brands:
- Gaziano Girling, England
- Bondeno, Italy
- George Cleverley, England
- Aubercy, France
- Francis Waplinger, USA
- Antonio Meccariello, Italy
- The Last Shoemaker, England
- Hiro Yanagimachi, Japan
- Paolo Scafora, Italy
- John Lobb, France
- Stefano Bemer, Italy
- TYE Shoemaker, Japan
You can use the links to jump ahead or scroll down to read more. You can also learn more about bespoke shoe-making and what it involves.
George Cleverley, England
What Are The Best Bespoke Shoe Brands For Men?
Following the below quick menus, you’ll discover the top 10 best bespoke shoemakers from around the world. We researched each one as well as contacted or tested them when possible. Furthermore, they’re not featured in any particular order of preference as each has its own unique characteristics.
See All Bespoke Unit Dress Shoe Guides
Dean Girling and Tony Gaziano have 25 years of experience working for celebrated bespoke makers such as George Cleverley, John Lobb, and Edward Green. In 2006, they founded their eponymous brand to explore new ground through unique contemporary designs inspired by traditional shoe-making pedigree.
Gaziano Girling’s luxury footwear is entirely handmade in their Kettering workshop near Northampton. As for their bespoke shoes, prices start from $7,000 excluding VAT and will require between 12 to 16 months to produce due to popular demand.
Meanwhile, once repeat customers have their own lasts, they will only have to wait between 6 to 8 months for future orders.
Read More: Gaziano Girling Brand Guide
Bondeno is a new brand that offers a unique approach to the bespoke experience. Unlike most bespoke shoemakers where you’re required to make an appointment for a fitting, Bondeno sends you a pair of special biofoam blocks that mould to the shape of your feet.
The factory then produces lasts from these blocks, which are used to make your shoes. All of Bondeno’s shoes are crafted using leather sourced from the celebrated French tanneries du Puy. Clients can choose between rapid Blake stitching or a Goodyear welt construction.
The final turnaround time is usually around 10 weeks, which is extremely fast for bespoke shoes. Indeed, Bondeno offers a modern solution when you can’t travel to a shoemaker due to budgetary or pandemic-related issues!
Celebrated shoemaker George Cleverley has been a family-operated business since it was founded in 1958. Today is managed by the father-and-son team of George Glasgow Sr and Jr.
Prices for their elite bespoke shoe service begin at $5,000 and is entirely undertaken from their London workshop. Overall, you can expect the process to take between 9 and 12 months with the first fitting taking place at around 7 months after placing your order.
Another family business, Aubercy has been managed by three generations since it was founded in 1935. Today, Xavier Aubercy has proudly taken charge while his parents continue to work play a vital role in the workshop. Aubercy was even recently awarded the “Living Heritage Company” title by the French Republic.
After a brief hiatus, Aubercy reintroduced their full bespoke shoe-making service in 2016. Prices for bespoke shoes start at around $5,550 and their turnaround time is impressively fast.
Made entirely by hand in their on-site workshop with a sewn welt, bespoke shoes taken only between 5 and 6 months after placing an order. When speaking to Xavier’s mother, Odette, she quipped, “Well, you know that the French are quite impatient when it comes to these things.”
Trained in Italy by Angelo Imperatrice, Francis Waplinger then worked under Roberto Ugolini as his apprentice. Upon returning to the USA, he followed another apprenticeship with Pennsylvania-based Hungarian shoemaker, Marcell Mrsan.
Today, Francis Warplinger is an independent shoemaker who operates in Brooklyn, New York. A veritable artisan, his work focuses on a harmonious marriage between timeless craftsmanship and refined elegance.
His handmade creations exude a sleek Italian aesthetic while incorporating a touch of British subtlety. Bespoke shoes start at $3,000 as well as an additional one-time $200 last fee for first orders. Meanwhile, his ready-to-wear shoes are available from $1,568.
When you first read about Antonio Meccariello, it sounds like it’s almost too good to be true. However, you quickly realise that Antonio Meccariello is a rare breed of ardent shoe enthusiast whose passion comes first. Meccariello even sold his shares of a designer shoe brand he co-founded to focus on his own workshop!
Antonio Meccariello offers two bespoke service. His basic bespoke starts at $2,800 and he needs only 4 to 5 months to make the last and test shoe. Once it has been fitted, the final shoes require 5 to 6 months. Antonio also offers a luxury bespoke service for his Aurum range from $3,400 where two fittings are involved.
However, not only are there two fittings, but each test shoe is fully wearable and part of his Aeris and Argentum range! Should the shoes fit perfectly, clients are welcome to take them home with them. Needless to say, his luxury bespoke service requires nearly 18 months of work but it’s well worth the wait!
After meeting at Steven Lowe and Dominic Casey’s bespoke shoe last making course at Lastmaker House, Scotsman Allan Donnelly and US-born Yorkshireman Payson Muller teamed up to launch their own brand.
This joint venture specialises in a unique minimalist “barefoot shoe” concept whereby their footwear features a distinctively sleek profile. Combined with traditional craftsmanship, they offer a naturally ergonomic experience.
Nevertheless, Allan and Payson also produce more conventional dress shoes and specialise in both in-house wooden lasts and hand welts. They also offer a unique service where you can recycle an old leather sofa into shoes if you supply the leather yourself!
Once your feet have been measured, Payson makes the wooden lasts himself from his workshop just outside of York. These are then sent to Allan who creates the uppers in his workshop before returning the shoes to Payson where he hand-sews the soles before being fitted with the customer.
Even if you don’t plan on visiting “God’s own country” anytime soon, Allan and Payson frequently attend trunk shoes throughout the USA.
After graduating from London’s Cordwainers College, Horiyuki Yanagimachi returned to Japan and began as a footwear designer. However, he was disappointed by the limitations of this environment and sought to establish his own workshop.
In 1999, he launched his own brand, which functions as an open workshop, which converges with the store as an open layout in the same space. A first bespoke order from Hiroyuki costs in the realm of $4,150 and there are reductions for repeat customers once the last has been made.
Paolo Scofora established his own brand in 1956, which is today run by his grandson of the same name. Based in Naples, Paolo Scafora is renowned for producing ready-to-wear shoes and has been offering a bespoke service for the last 10 years.
Their prices for bespoke shoes start at a lucrative $2,000 and are produced in only 4 to 6 weeks. Interestingly, Paolo Scafora have adopted the use of plastic lasts as opposed to wood, which helps speed up the process tremendously.
In 1976, Hermès acquired the English shoemaker’s Parisian workshop as well as the rights to use its name. However, the latter has become something of a hot issue of late. John Lobb France has boutiques all over the world, which has resulted in a much more international presence than its English counterpart.
While their ready-to-wear shoes are made in Northampton, all of their bespoke footwear is completely handcrafted in their Parisian workshop. A particularly premium service at $7,000, it requires at least 7 months from start to finish, which includes crafting the wooden last from scratch.
Stefano Bemer established his workshop in 1983 and quickly garnered international recognition as well as a fan base among A-listers including Daniel Day Lewis. After Bemer’s unexpected passing, Tommaso Melani picked up the torch and continues to produces exquisite footwear.
The Bemer Florentine workshop offers a number of bespoke services. Their entry-level “Blue” bespoke range starts at $3,000 with a speedy turnaround of only 5 months.
Tsuyoshi Ohno founded TYE in 2011 after having trained with Chihiro Yamaguchi at the Guild of Crafts. A master last maker, Ohno only produces bespoke footwear from his workshop alongside a closer and a pattern-maker.
Prices start at around $3,000 for bespoke shoes and the turnaround time takes around eight months following the order.
What Are Bespoke Shoes?
The most elite category of shoe-making, people are typically thinking about bespoke when they refer to custom shoes. However, if you’ve read our guides linked above, you’ll have learned that despite every effort, a made-to-order or made-to-measure shoe will never match a bespoke shoe.
As the name suggests, bespoke shoes are entirely tailored to the wearer’s feet using the utmost precision. Therefore, only the most skilled and expert craftsmen are able to undertake such a feat in workmanship.
Ordering bespoke shoes isn’t a simple process and certainly not one that can be completed online like some made-to-order footwear. While we often talk about our favourite online made-to-measure suit makers, bespoke shoes and suits are entirely different beasts.
When looking to purchase bespoke shoes, it’s recommended that you first make an appointment to your shoemaker of choice. Given that the measurement process can be quite long, some shoemakers prefer appointments as it guarantees you the necessary undivided attention.
Traditionally, bespoke shoemakers will take your measurements by hand as well as drawing outlines of your feet on paper. You’ll then likely have an in-depth discussion on how you like to wear your shoes in terms of tightness.
Once this has been established, the shoemaker will proceed with crafting unique lasts for each shoes.
What Are Lasts?
A last is basically a mould over which shoes are essentially sculpted when they are made. Even ready-to-wear shoe brands have lasts, which are shaped to their different standard sizes. Occasionally, there are different styles of last, which dictate the aesthetics of the shape too.
In bespoke shoe-making, the lasts are instead wooden moulds that are precisely shaped like the client’s feet based on the client’s measurements.
While traditional shoemakers will hand-carve the lasts from blocks of wood using paper measurements, some modern companies will occasionally create plastic ones based on 3D-scans.
Aside from Paolo Scafora above, every shoemaker we’ve listed here only crafts wooden lasts themselves. The process is particularly time-consuming and can take months to achieve.
However, before the ordered shoes are crafted, the lasts will be trialled first to see whether they’re accurate.
Fittings For Bespoke Shoes
Once the lasts have been completed, a pair of test shoes will be manufactured for a fitting session with the client. This is undertaken to ensure that the lasts accurately represent the client’s feet and are free of any faults.
As a result, the trial shoes are often made from second-grade leather and may not include any of the desired customisation options. After all, the test shoes are made only to trial the lasts’ accuracy. If there are any fitting issues, they’ll likely be drawn on and cut open to identify the problem.
However, there are exceptions. Indeed, Antonio Meccariello’s luxury bespoke service will instead use this opportunity to manufacture perfectly wearable shoes from their most affordable range. Therefore, if the fit is perfect, the client has the opportunity to own an extra pair of shoes!
Becoming A Bespoke Shoe Client
Should there be any issues with the trial shoes, the shoemaker will go back and either modify or rebuild the last. While this is indeed rare at this level of craftsmanship, it can sometimes happen.
Since the shoemaker is seeking providing the client with perfection, they will likely reconvene after another pair of trial shoes have been made.
After the fitting has been approved by the client, the shoemaker will proceed with the final pair. As bespoke shoes are usually handmade, this may take a couple more months before they’re ready.
Furthermore, it’s also vital that the fitting for the first pair of shoes is taken seriously as the shoemaker will keep the lasts in their workshop. This will allow the client to easily order future pairs without having to repeat the process.
In fact, many repeat bespoke customers enjoy the convenience of being able to order their future shoes by telephone or email.
How Much Bespoke Shoes Cost?
As you may have noticed above, bespoke shoes are an investment to say the least! That said, bear in mind that a first order of bespoke shoes is usually more expensive than future purchases.
Given that lasts need to be made for first-time customers, the time-consuming procedure is included in the price. As these are kept by the shoemaker, the process won’t be repeated so the cost is reduced.
Typically, traditional handmade bespoke shoes should cost somewhere from $4,000 and $5,000.
Truly exceptional bespoke shoemakers such as Gaziano Girling may sometimes charge more. The reasons for this vary but it can be due to their own base construction techniques, selection of materials, or even simply their reputation and demand.
Meanwhile, you may have noticed above that Italian bespoke shoes tend to be more accessible than their British or French counterparts. For instance, even Antonio Meccariello’s luxury bespoke service starts at only $3,000.
Indeed, the Italians do have a reputation for making more affordable bespoke shoes. However, this doesn’t at all suggest that the quality is inferior.
Finally, remember that all the prices listed above represent the starting prices for bespoke shoes. While even the construction, craftsmanship, and materials used to make bespoke shoes are generally superior to ready-to-wear footwear, there are still price brackets once you enter bespoke territory.
As a result, the prices will naturally increase if you ask for different types of customisation, rarer leathers, and complex stitching techniques.
Why Are Bespoke Shoes So Expensive?
Traditionally, fully bespoke shoes are entirely hand-made without the use of any machinery to facilitate the process. Consequently, the typical shoe construction techniques that are most familiar aren’t used here.
For instance, Goodyear welts are achieved using a machine. If a similar construction is desired, the shoe will be hand-welted instead, which is an even more labour-intensive and time-consuming process.
Not only is the manufacturing process extremely complex but bespoke shoemakers will only use leathers and materials to match the level of their craftsmanship. Therefore, even the most affordable leathers included in the price for bespoke shoes tend to be of impeccable quality.
While the client can customise and request different leathers, it’ll only be for other skins of equal or superior quality.
On average, a bespoke shoe represents at least 60 hours of work to produce from start to finish. And this doesn’t even include the last! Therefore, it’s no surprise that a client has to wait several months to receive the shoes.
Why Buy Bespoke Shoes?
As we’ve highlighted above, bespoke shoes are the elite of custom shoes. Given the level of service, craftsmanship, fit, and sheer customisation that it offers, there is no equal or substitute.
However, you are now probably aware that it is also very expensive and justifiably so. Consequently, why should someone invest in bespoke shoes?
Firstly, there is the question of necessity. Some people truly struggle to find shoes that fit them at all. Whether its due to foot conditions, abnormalities, or simply having an awkward foot size, ready-to-wear shoes are simply not suitable.
As such, bespoke isn’t just a luxury but absolutely essential for the wearer. While made-to-measure shoes could be sufficient in some cases, it may not offer the level of customisation necessary to provide sufficient comfort.
Therefore, you may need to have dedicated lasts created of your feet in order to have shoes that provide a safe and comfortable fit.
Alternatively, you might want to invest in bespoke shoes simply for your own gratification. After all, it is the apex of luxury shoe-making and if you have the means, why not experience it for yourself?
As a result, you’ll be able to enjoy shoes that are made just for you both in their fit but also their design and leather. Wearing bespoke shoes is as delightful as they say and a veritable pleasure with every step.
Now that you have read about the best bespoke shoe brands and what they offer, feel free to explore our other related guides: